breastfeeding and working full-time

Being a breastfeeding Mama and a full-time working Mama also means I am a full-time pumping Mama! To begin with, I originally wanted to make it to 6 months of breastfeeding Johanna. I didn't actually realize what an amazing experience this would be, so now I'd like to breastfeed until she is a year old! God willing I will make it but if not that's okay too. I want to remind everyone reading this that if you're feeding your baby you're doing a great job! It doesn't make you better or worse if you breastfeed or use formula. Everyone has their own approach and style to mothering. Feeding babies in general is hard work so whatever method you have chosen, you are amazing!

When it comes to breastfeeding, there are so many factors that you must be able to work around in order to gain the full experience. Every woman and every baby are different, so those factors vary individually. Speaking for myself, those factors included Johanna being “small” in the beginning, Johanna not latching well after getting home from the hospital, not knowing exactly how much milk she was getting, nursing every 1 ½ - 2 hours, Johanna beginning to use me as a pacifier, and my newest challenge of going back to work full-time. I want to share some tips with you all about continuing to breastfeed while also working full-time. When I say this is hard work, I mean it! You must be prepared to work really hard at your milk supply.

Before returning to work I used my trusted friends and family's advice as well as a handy dandy website in order to get prepared for pumping full-time and nursing part-time. I was used to it being the other way around. When you are nursing more than you are pumping, your body will replenish milk better than if you are exclusively pumping. This is because a baby's suckle is much stronger than a pump. The baby's closeness also triggers the body to “make more milk.” The tips I'm giving are those that have worked for me so far. When I say worked for me, I mean my milk supply has stayed steady and I am still able to make enough bottles for Johanna each day. About 2 weeks before going back to work, I began worrying that I may not be able to keep up with how much Johanna was drinking. I literally stayed home as much as I could for 2 weeks just so I could give my milk supply a boost and add to my stash. I added 3 extra feedings each day (Johanna enjoyed this), I held and cuddled Johanna as much as I could (even going against my better judgment and letting her nap in bed with me), I pumped after every single feeding to get all of the extra milk out and make room for more, I power pumped 4 times per week (see below to read what power pumping is), I used massage and hand expression in the mornings after pumping while Johanna was still asleep, and lastly I woke up every 3 to 4 hours in the night just to pump. Now you may be thinking that I pumped all my milk supply and had nothing left for Johanna but baby's will stimulate more milk to come even after pumping. They may be nursing for longer periods of time and more frequently when you choose to do this but that is part of the hard work I was talking about! I hope you find these tips to be beneficial and I'd love to hear your feedback!

Know your rights - there are certain laws regarding “nursing mothers” and their right to pump during working hours. These laws are different for every agency so it is a good idea to check into them or talk to your supervisor before going back to work. Knowing your rights will help you develop a schedule around when to pump, how often to pump and how long to pump while still being efficient at your job. Some of these laws include, extra break times, the environment in which you are pumping, using leave time to pump, etc.

Get a good pump and get to know it - From my experience, the best kind of pump to get is a double electric pump with at least 2 speeds. The manual pump can take a longer time because you can only pump one breast at a time. While you can manually change the speed, the electric pump is more efficient and can be completely hands free. The pump I use is the Medela Spectra double electric pump. Getting to know your pump is super important. You don't want to go in on the first day of work trying to figure out how to use your pump. You want to be fully prepared! While I pumped from the time I gave birth, some mothers exclusively breastfeed. You'll want to take your pump for a few practice runs so you know how your milk is best expressed. For myself, I begin pumping with the high speed (cycle 70, vacuum 5) for about 3 minutes. This is the best representation of baby suckling and will stimulate your expression. I then switch to the slower speed (cycle 54, vacuum 12) and pump for 12 minutes. This ensures that all of my milk is expressed. I also continue pumping the full 15 minutes even if no milk is being expressed. This stimulates my body and makes it aware that I need to make more milk. Sometimes, I will turn my pump off for about a minute then turn it back on. This gives the milk expression a jump start and gets the last drops out. It is good to empty your breasts completely so that your body has room for more milk.

Build your supply before you go back to work - The things I mentioned above are the things I did to boost my milk supply. I had to make sure I had a stash of milk prepared just in case I cannot keep up with how much Johanna drinks. I'll have a backup supply. I keep frozen milk at her daycare as well as her Grandparents house for when they watch her. I want to make sure that there is extra milk in case she has growth spurt, spits up her milk, etc and needs more than I send her with. I send her with 3 to 5 bottles everyday, depending on how much I work. Literally every drop of milk counts so if you are only pumping a little bit at a time, it's okay, save it! After the 4th trimester and the return of your cycle, most mothers only pump about 2 ounces from both breasts during a pumping session. Your supply will natural go down with time so don't worry! Don't get discouraged, it is normal to pump less than what your baby actually drinks. This is what I mean when I say hopefully I can keep up with Johanna's appetite and how important it is to get your stash up! You should also continue pumping after every feeding even when you go back to work.

Nurse your baby, when you are with your baby - As I mentioned, the best way to produce milk is to nurse your baby. I always nurse Johanna in the morning before we leave the house, at night when we get home (several times) and on my days off. After each feeding, I pump what is left and save it! Johanna is used to nursing before bed so this routine works out great! So if you are with your baby, nurse him/her.

Try different supplements or make your own - I have heard that supplements do not work for everyone and can even have an adverse effect and make your milk supply go down. If you try a supplement and notice that your supply is decreasing, discontinue that supplement. Also, make sure you check with your doctor before trying something new. Anything you put into your body, you're putting into your baby's body. Fenugreek tablets work great for me! I take 2 of the upspring vitamins everyday. Since I have been taking them, I noticed that I now express more milk than before. I use fenugreek essential oils on my armpits and chest area as well. I also make my own cookies. You can find recipes for what you like online. Upspring has a good powder that you add to water or a smoothie. They have chocolate and raspberry. I personally like the chocolate and drink a cup everyday. Some natural supplements include oatmeal, avocados, cranberries, protein and never forget water, water, water. Think about it this way, is there any rain in the desert? If your body is dehydrated, your milk supply will be too!

Power pump twice a week - Power pumping is a way to restart and recharge your milk supply. It involves a pretty easy process. Pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 5 minutes, pump for 5 minutes and you're done. You likely will not have any milk being expressed in the last 5 minutes but just keep pumping! I try to do this during Johanna's naptime and then I take that opportunity to sterilize my bottles and pump equipment. Power pumping kind of gives your body a little jumpstart and says “hey keep making milk, we need it.”

Set-up a relaxing environment where you are pumping - Stress is the number 1 cause of a decrease in milk supply. Trust me when I tell you, I'm the world's biggest ball of stress but keeping it as limited as possible is important. Stress can literally “dry you up.” Take a moment every day to practice some breathing exercises. The environment you pump in should be a quiet relaxing space. Or, if you are like me you can play some meditation music while pumping. At home, I light some candles to really get into the relaxation mode. Don't watch your milk flow! As bad as you want to watch how awesome it is and how much milk you are making, don't do it! This will cause anxiety, worry and stress. Just let your body do what it is going to do and relax!

Bring some baby paraphernalia - Looking at your baby isn't as beneficial as holding your baby when it comes to maintaining your milk but it's pretty darn close! Bring a picture or a blanket that smells like your baby! Heck, bring both! I usually set up her picture against my pump and wrap her blanket around my shoulders. As silly as this sounds, it really gets my milk expression going!

Don't wait to pump, just pump - My last tip to you is not to wait to pump! Pump as often as your baby would eat or get on a schedule like every 3 hours and stick to it. Your body will make it a habit to fill up with milk at these moments. You don't have to wait until you feel full to pump. Your milk is there, even if you can’t feel it! Again, even if nothing is coming out just keep on pumping!